Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun – Holiday Edition

animal rescue, dog training, dogs, holiday events, How-to, photography

Lucy and Charlie have the best seats to watch our changing seasons

Fayston, Vermont. With Halloween a sugar coated memory, the Holiday Season is upon us. Be sure to include your dog(s) in the celebrations because not only are dogs good at cleaning up after dinner, they want to be with you no matter your to-do list.

Thanksgiving probably means a family gathering, so I hope you’ll take a group photo with your dog. Remember to practice “Sit-Stay” before then, and be patient. Short training sessions done post-exercise and with consistency are the keys to success. Once you have everyone gathered, take several shots. Tip: Use the burst mode to take a bunch of shots quickly. You just need one with all eyes open.

Dress Rehearsals

Before you go out for the photo with Santa, you want to both look festive. Many dogs are fine with costumes, but for some like my Charlie, a bandana is about all he will tolerate. Maybe he’ll wear reindog antlers. How did your dog do with Halloween? If he was uncomfortable or nervous, skip the costume.

The crew in their basic bandanas

Bandanas come in just about any color and cost about $2 from the craft store. Or shop Etsy for a holiday-themed one just for dogs. I’ve put reversible bandanas from Simply B Vermont (on Etsy and at The Quirky Pet in Montpelier, Vermont) on my crew as they are handmade near my house and come in a variety of super fun prints. They cost $16 each.

For you, dress in coordinating colors. Solid colors photograph better than patterns, but ugly sweater is your call. One of my favorite finds this year are the holiday animal sweaters for women at Lands’ End. Probably not ugly enough to win an office contest, but they offer one with a Golden Retriever, another with a cute terrier, and one with a Dachshund, as well as a variety of other designs (cat, sheep, cow, plus traditional seasonal motifs). Made from machine washable cotton; $69.95 – 40% off with coupon code NOVEMBER40 as of this writing.

Additional tips before bringing Fido to Santa or out caroling:

  • Basic commands “sit”, “stay”, and “come” are essential for safety and everyone’s enjoyment. Work on these often!
  • Use a leash and harness and whatever reward system you prefer.
  • Make sure your dog is healthy and vaccinations are up to date.
  • Practice! Take your dog to stores that allow pets. Make the outings short at first. Many shops on Church Street in Burlington, Vermont are pet friendly. Some of the big box stores are dog-friendly, too. Call ahead if you’re not sure. Caveat: In preparing this article, I started by searching those pet friendly guide websites, but found some information not accurate or out of date when I confirmed with the businesses. So before you go, call your destination directly to inquire about its pet policy.
  • Exercise your dog before any practice runs and especially before the Santa trip.
  • Bring poop bags. Because, you know…
  • Public outings are not for every dog. If your dog seems anxious while you’re waiting in line, leave. If your dog is nervous or the slightest bit reactive, don’t even try a store outing – have a friend come over to take your photo. And keep working with your dog on socialization.

Charlie looks snuggly in his festive blanket – this is his dressed up look…

The takeaway: Lower your expectations, practice with your dog, and relax. Your dog will respond to your emotions. Your dog’s personality makes the portrait special, not Santa. (Sorry, Santa.)

Santa!!!

Check your local community calendar for holiday events that are dog-friendly. PetCo and PetSmart locations across the country will offer Photos with Santa in December. PetCo in Vermont will host Santa on December 8 and again on December 15. PetSmart in Williston, Vermont expects to host Santa on every December Saturday before Christmas.

After Thanksgiving, call your local store or look online for times and dates.

Benefit Events

Helping a rescue organization by attending their fundraising event is my favorite excuse to have a night out. Check your community calendar or local newspaper for events near you. Here are a few events coming up in Vermont:

Shop Small Sale at Dog Mountain Home of the Stephen Huneck Gallery, St. Johnsbury, Vermont; Saturday, November 24. Ok, not a night out, but a great opportunity to pick up unique gifts. You may bring your dog.

Making Spirits Bright to benefit Passion for Paws; Thursday, December 13; 6:60-9:30 pm; The Automaster, Shelburne, Vermont; $35 in advance. Information and tickets

Ugly Sweater Contest to benefit Golden Huggs Rescue, Wednesday, December 19, Prohibition Pig, Waterbury, Vermont. The food was terrific last year! Details are still forthcoming – I’ll post an update with complete information next month, or check Prohibition Pig’s website in the coming weeks.

Purrrses for Paws to benefit The Humane Society of Chittenden County; February 7, 2019 at the Burlington International Airport. Features a silent auction of new and gently used purses; tickets:$30 Information and tickets

Shameless Plug

I now have an Etsy Shop! Order holiday cards or my “mountain dog pack” cards featuring, you guessed it, Linus, Lucy, and Charlie Brown. I’ll be adding more cards and prints in the coming weeks, so check back often. My Etsy Shop: RSilbernagelPhoto

A bigger selection of my cards is available at Product Think Tank in Waitsfield, Vermont (in the Mad River Green Shopping Center, next to the Post Office). This dog-friendly boutique is home to locally designed Mountain Lifestyle natural fiber sweaters for men and women, with styles and colors for all the adults on your gift list. Please stop in to take a look.

Bonus: Benefit Contest For Dogs And Their People – Enter Today!

Going on now until November 30, the Orange Crush social media contest from Spot The Dog Vermont is a fun way to play outside during stick season. It is hunting season here in Vermont, and Spot The Dog Vermont makes hi-viz orange vests and bandanas for country dogs. We’ve bought the vests for all three of my dogs. Charlie also has a bandana that’s plaid with reflective dots on one side and orange on the other. This event benefits Golden Huggs Rescue, from where we adopted all three of my dogs.

The details (from Spot the Dog):

Spot the Dog was founded to save dogs lives by protecting them during hunting season, on the trail, and at night. Spot the Dog has a DEEP commitment to saving rescue dogs by contributing 10% of every sale we make to Golden Huggs Rescue.

The Spot the Dog orange crush campaign is about having fun and SAVING LIVES! Beginning Saturday Nov 10th (rifle season kick off in VT) Spot the Dog will be posting photos of your “Orange Crushes” – your dog, a rescue dog, any dog that you love decked out in safety orange! At the end of the contest (runs until December 10th) whichever “Orange Crush” received the most cumulative likes (Instagram+Facebook) will receive a LIFETIME supply of new Spot the Dog safety wear and have a $3000 check donated in the winner’s name to Golden Huggs Rescue!

Here’s how you can participate:

1. Take a photo or selfie of you with your “Orange Crush”

2. Tag @spot_the_dogs or email the photo to Sam@SpotTheDogVT.com

3. Wait to see your photo pop up on our page, and in the meantime share and like our Orange Crushes!!

November Image Gallery

Our weather went from fall to winter practically overnight. Most days, Linus has taken up his spot in front of the wood stove while Charlie and Lucy sit in the snow on a hill in our yard, watching. I don’t know what they’re watching, but they seem to know their job.

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What’s Your Dog’s Walk Profile?

dog training, dogs, humor

Each of my dogs has a distinct personality, even when confined to a leash

Fayston, Vermont. Despite the fact that spring seems slow in coming this year, my dogs and I are enjoying more time outside now that the snow is (mostly) melted. I am looking forward to walking on the hiking trails and public paths once those ways are dry enough for foot traffic. Meanwhile, we are meandering out on the roads, and I have noticed that each of my dogs exhibits at least one “walk profile” type when on a leash. Others have told me about their dogs’ distinct behavior while leash walking.

Recently, I devised a set of “walk profiles” to categorize dog behavior while on a leash.  The profiles are not exclusive to each other – dogs may show characteristics from more than one profile. Dogs may also morph from one category into another completely. Training is the biggest variable, but weather may also have a role in which behavior is exhibited. Equipment such as a special harness or lead also plays a part in behavior.

What type of “walker” is your dog?

  1. The Investigator. This dog loves to sniff EVERYTHING, even if the walk is on the same route taken earlier in the day. All of the day’s news is contained in the grass, but it takes time to weed out the gossip from the important stuff. This dog is thorough and curious as well as social. Perhaps even a little stubborn… Motivating to move along can be a challenge.
  2. The Fire Chief. Works a little faster than the Investigator, but is sure to put out each inflammatory remark with his own stream. The Fire Chief boasts an amazing reservoir to ensure coverage.
  3. The Motion Detector. Chases blowing leaves, butterflies, birds, and moving squirrels, the Motion Detector is energetic and enthusiastic. The Motion Detector needs frequent “SIT” time-outs to collect herself while on a leash. Can be difficult to handle in a wind gust.
  4. The Collector. Souvenirs of every walk line the driveway: sticks, dropped rotten apples, and even big branches are picked up and carried by the Collector during the walk and dropped once back at home. Sometimes these items are held in the mouth while in Motion Detector mode (see above). A collected item often serves as a pacifier. The Collector is known to carry multiple items at the same time. Caution: Large collected items can become a club – “drop it” is a good command to avoid being hit behind the knees with a large stick.
  5. The Tugboat. Harnessing the power of this type of walker is necessary, and with training, the Tugboat can become a well-mannered Pleasure Cruiser. The Tugboat is out in front, excited at being outside and stimulated by all he sees. His specialty is pulling arms: Avoid injury by using a no-pull harness/lead and engaging the tugboat in training to stop his pulling.
  6. The Hunter. Similar to the Motion Detector, but instead of chasing movement, the Hunter is scenting rodents. Squirrels, chipmunks, and gophers better beware if the Hunter is off-leash. The Hunter type is often paired with the Tugboat type, so a harness and training help keep hunting season closed during leash walks.
  7. The Pleasure Cruiser. With training and frequent positive reinforcement, this is the height of evolved dog walk behavior. The Cruiser is focused on his or her handler, does not pull or lurch or jump, and makes exploring the neighborhood a joy of companionship. Each of my dogs has flirted with this walk type, but none has committed fully to it. Yet. Our pursuit of Cruiser-ability is on-going.

What type of walker is your dog? Do you have any other types in your house? Please leave a comment!